Premier Andrew Fahie speaks alongside representatives of H. Lavity Stoutt Community College during last Wednesday’s launch of the Back to the Sea training programme. (Photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK)

Aspiring marine professionals will get new opportunities to train in all aspects of the industry after Premier Andrew Fahie launched the new “Back to the Sea” Maritime Industry Training Programme last week.

“The BVI is already the sail- ing capital of the world, and together we will claim our rightful place as the mecca of the global marine industry,” he said Aug. 14 during the opening ceremony at Village Cay. “Therefore, all Virgin Islanders who wish to pursue a career in the marine industry by training at a legitimate accredited institution will be given the requisite support and encouragement to do so.”

The first phase of the two- phase initiative, to kick off next month, is designed to provide re- sources to support students in collaboration with H. Lavity Stoutt Community College or other local institutions that provide accredited marine training, thereby fulfilling the territory’s mandate as the Regional Centre for Excellence for Marine Studies within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, which HLSCC Dean of Workforce Training Bernadine Louis said was established about 10 years ago.

The second phase, scheduled to get under way in January, is designed to offer support to students accepted to study at accredited maritime training
institutions abroad in fields where training programmes do not yet exist within the territory.

These areas go beyond boat captains to encompass professions like maritime consultants, marine engineers and naval architects, some of which regularly earn six-figure salaries but which in the VI “are often imported,” the premier said, adding, “As our marine sector grows, no doubt, there will be an even greater demand for persons to fill positions like these.”

John Samuel, chairman of the HLSCC board, said the institution aims to offer “the first year of a four-year maritime academy programme that will be able to deliver in the BVI [and] partner with one or two of the maritime academies in the United States.”

New opportunities

Mr. Fahie said that the marine industry is an often overlooked powerhouse of the VI economy. “The influx of vessels, owners, crew and other personnel will stimulate activity in other areas,” he said. “These persons will have a demand for food, beverages, clothing, marine supplies, long- and short-term accommodation, transport, entertainment, and much more.”

Furthermore, a larger maritime labour force could potentially prompt the growth of the VI Shipping Registry and inspire investors to open and fund marine businesses.

“There are some marine industry stakeholders who have already stepped forward as partners in this exercise, and I hope that in time good corporate citizens will join on and demonstrate their support for the trainees and apprentices,” he said.

Potential students can register their interest online starting yesterday, the day of the launch of the government’s “1,000 Jobs in 1,000 Days” initiative, and face-to-face registration drives will be conducted in each district, the dates of which are to be announced.

“We are island people,” the premier said. “We are surrounded by ocean. We interact with the water in our daily routines. This has been the way for generations as our forefathers navigated the seas around us. Therefore, we have it in our DNA to be among the best maritime professionals in the region, if not the world.”